A Game of Haydn Seek; Mozart's Anniversary Has Been a Gift to the Marketing Men. but Can They Really Do the Same with the Quiet Composer Who Invented the String Quartet?

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Game of Haydn Seek; Mozart's Anniversary Has Been a Gift to the Marketing Men. but Can They Really Do the Same with the Quiet Composer Who Invented the String Quartet?


Byline: NORMAN LEBRECHT

AN ARTIST putting something back into the place that reared him is always nice to see - think Shakespeare in Stratford, Elvis in Memphis - but not many deliver as emphatic a payback as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has done in his 250th year.

Highbrows may scoff at the gaudier marketing excesses but, with four months to go and official figures still fluid, it is abundantly apparent that Little Mo has brought home the bacon.

Salzburg, his birthplace, has (I am reliably informed) enjoyed an increase in cultural tourism of well over 10 per cent, the high-profit end of the trade, while Vienna is up seven per cent on UK trippers alone.

The Salzburg Festival, in a season of transitional management, has scored record box-office for its run of 22 Mozart operas and will soon be cashing in on the Christmas trade with a [pounds sterling]300 boxed set of Mozart 22 DVDs. Vienna is putting on a November fest in which the American director Peter Sellars will mix and match Mozart with contemporary works, an extravaganza that will tour next year to the Barbican in London and New York's Lincoln Center.

If you thought the Mozart tide was receding, brace yourselves for the next wave, and the one after.

All told, the e30 million ([pounds sterling]20 million) in public subsidy that Austria splashed on Mozart this year is looking like the best investment since Microsoft started up.

Mozart is no longer a little night music but a global brand that creates customer loyalty and allows a country of eight million to punch way above its weight in the councils of Europe and the cultural hemisphere as the source of classical music. What Austria plays gets replicated the world over as the aural wallpaper of our lives.

All through the summer, officials in Vienna have been sweating over the next project, searching for a magic name to repeat the Mozart effect. Fortunately, there's another little fellow in a frizzy wig coming up for his bicentennial.

Franz-Josef Haydn was musically more important than Mozart or Beethoven in the sense that he invented the moulds they worked in. Haydn perfected the sonata form that underpins symphonic music and created - with two violins, viola and cello - the string quartet that has yielded some of the most intimate moments in the whole of Western music. Mozart, who called him "Papa" Haydn, said: "He is the father of us all."

Haydn died in 1809, at the age of 77, and the Austrians have decided to designate 2009 as Haydn Year with another e30 million budget and Peter Marboe, artistic director of the Mozart Year, as the likely ringmaster.

Festivals, concert halls and opera houses around the world have already taken note by putting Haydn at the heart of their 2009 programming, which is not terribly hard to do since the assiduous composer left no fewer than 104 symphonies, 14 operas, 68 string quartets, 120 trios, some 40 sonatas and much else - more music, in fact, than any classical giant.

Most of it is tuneful, attractive and tickled with a sense of fun that bursts through when, in the Farewell Symphony for instance, he has the musicians leave the stage one by one as the piece fades out indeterminately.

A Drumroll Symphony and another named Surprise are devices that Haydn used to keep the after-dinner audience awake.

Unlike Mozart, who was a keyboard star and all-round show-off, Haydn was happiest hiding in the pit of his orchestra. Obeisant where Mozart was abrasive, unopinionated where Beethoven was confrontational, he is arguably the most likeable of all classical masters and the one with the most to give in terms of fresh experience, since there is so much music to explore and so little of it is ever heard. …

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